On May 7, Sister Jeanne Bessette was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, for her lifelong commitment to education, her dedication to her community of religious Sisters and for her hope that all children can reach their greatest potential through education.
Sister Jeanne has served as president and CEO of DePaul Cristo Rey (DPCR) High School in Cincinnati – a sponsored institution of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati – since 2009, the year it was founded. Through Sister Jeanne’s vision and commitment to education, the school has grown from an idea to 280 students from across the city and a staff of 50. There have now been two graduating classes, with all students having been accepted into college.
DePaul Cristo Rey, one of 30 high schools serving urban youth in the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, is a college preparatory high school that uses a Corporate Work Study program providing students with real-life work experience throughout their high school years. With support from the Cincinnati business community, students work five days a month which assists in financing more than 70 percent of their education.
Sister Jeanne received a doctorate from the University of San Francisco, a master’s degree from Loyola University of Chicago and a bachelors’ degree from the University of St. Francis in Joliet. She has also received multiple honors for her work in the area of education. No stranger to leadership, Sister Jeanne has served on the Joliet Franciscan Governing Board for eight years, as well as serving as principal at Trinity High School in River Forest, Illinois.
Sister Jeanne shares stories of how the lives of DPCR students are changed through education. The students come from predominantly low-income families who, without DPCR, would not have access to a quality education. As any Joliet Franciscan Sister will agree, Sister Jeanne believes that the cycle of poverty can be broken through a quality education.